Experiences using the DBT "nightmare protocol"?

Started by Armee, February 24, 2022, 05:40:29 AM

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My therapist has often referred me to the DBT nightmare protocol saying it had helped other clients. Has anyone here used it? Could you describe how and if it worked for you?

I am having a hard time actually using it for a few reasons and I'm not sure if i am just making up excuses or they are legitimate challenges to using it.

1. I don't want to write down the content of the nightmares because they would be awful for my family to discover and read on accident. But technically the protocol includes writing it down in detail.

2. It centers around visualizing a new ending for the dream that is positive,  but I cannot visualize. I can think about it but not visualize it.

3. I seem to lack imagination to come up with new endings and don't like what I come up with for various reasons. I just can't quite come up with anything to replace the bad dreams with.

4. I haven't ever had the experience of being able to control or even be aware when I am dreaming. How do you change a dream if you aren't at least aware you are dreaming? Things just happen and blindside me.

I am actually open to truly trying it this time so am curious others'experiences with it.


Hi Armee,

I do not have experience of this but I have used another technique which helped. My T, on hearing about my recurring nightmare suggested imagining a specific scenario before I fell asleep and, it worked, for that nightmare, and similar.

In my nightmare I was either in my childhood home or in the garden. Nothing bad happened but I felt unsafe and would wake drenched in sweat. The scenario suggested for me to imagine was for me to see myself walking out of the door, locking it shut, walking away, or walking out of the garden and walking away.

Obviously for this you have to be aware of the content of the nightmare, where you are, how to get out, or what might work. There was nothing written down, it was simply visualised.

I have had other nightmares since, but not in the same childhood setting, and not recurring scenarios.



Thanks Gromit! Before that worked did you have awareness when you were dreaming so that you could control adding the alternate ending or did it just happen automatically from having rehearsed it each night?

Thanks for letting me know that just mentally practicing it works as well as writing it down. I really appreciate your response!